John Volturo of Scriball Talks Living With Celiac’s Disease

Episode 114

Video Transcription

Jackie Keller: Welcome to Food Exposed, where each week we take an inside
look at what’s on your plate. My name is Jackie Keller, and I’m the
founding director of NutriFit, Los Angeles’ leading healthy food
company. We’ve been hearing a lot about gluten free foods these days,
a whole lot. It seems that everyone is trying this new style of
eating, for a variety of reasons.

Today, I’d like to focus on Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity,
which when diagnosed, dictate the need to follow a gluten-free diet.
While many people are eating gluten-free for other reasons, like
following a fad, thinking that’s it’s going to be a magical weight
loss cure, curing bad habits in general by eliminating gluten is
another reason people are doing this, the autoimmune disorder that is
Celiac is a serious condition. It’s estimated that nearly 1 in 100
may have it. It’s the condition in which the absorptive surface of
the small intestine is damaged by gluten, and this results in the
body’s inability to absorb nutrients. No fat, no protein, no
carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, which are all necessary for good
health, are not well absorbed. According to the science, anything
above 20 parts-per-million of gluten can cause damage to a person with
Celiac disease. An additional three to five percent of the population
suffers from a condition known as non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, which
is not an autoimmune disease like Celiac, but it has similar
gastrointestinal symptoms and requires the same gluten free diet.

What is gluten, anyway? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and
barley. It helps bread and other baked goods bind and prevents
crumbling. As a result, gluten is widely used in the production of
many packaged and processed foods. Gluten-containing flours and
starches are also used as thickeners, and they are present in many
soups and sauces. In fact, gluten in present in so much of our food
supply that following this specific dietary platform is really
challenging. For those not afflicted but looking for a way to
improve their diet in general, simply eliminating foods with highly
processed or refined products and emphasizing a diet rich in fruits,
vegetables, wholesome lean proteins, dairy, and fat will help.

Common symptoms of Celiac disease are anemia, chronic diarrhea, weight
loss, fatigue, cramps, bloating, and in some individuals, itching and
burning rashes. Still others present overt symptoms at all, but none
the less, they suffer the intestinal damage. The wide spectrum of
potential symptoms has historically made Celiac very difficult to
diagnose. It’s frequently misdiagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome,
lactose intolerance, Crohn’s Disease, or other conditions. About 10%
of individuals with Type I Diabetes also have Celiac Disease, and
Celiac Disease, especially when untreated is also associated with
osteoporosis, liver and thyroid diseases, and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a
whole host of things.

My guest today knows all about getting diagnosed and living with
Celiac Disease. We met under circumstances completely unrelated to
this condition, but definitely related to healthy food. John Volturo
is best known for his avant-garde marketing tactics and is behind some
of the biggest aspirational consumer brands in the marketplace today.
As the former Senior Vice President for Marketing for Guthy-Renker,
John spearheaded business development and marketing strategies for the
the direct marketing conglomerate and it’s world-renown products like
Chaz Dean’s Wen, Anthony Robbins, Winsor Pilates, and Sheer Cover.
Formerly the CMO of BeachMint, silicon beaches most recognized
startup. John was a primary in the company’s genesis and early
growth. Last November, in 2013, John founded Scriball, a platform
that connects brands and consumers through interactive, immersive
social storytelling. Scriball uses multimedia and sequenced content
to inspire creativity and build brand-to-consumer or consumer-to-
consumer based content and conversations.

John received his MBA with a concentration in Marketing, Marketing
Management from Drexel University and his Bachelor’s in Communication
from Temple University. He’s a strong supporter of the LGBT community
here in Los Angeles and PTSD recovery organizations. John and his
husband, Adam Christian, live in Los Angeles, California, with their
twin daughters. John, welcome to Food Exposed. It’s so nice to have
you here. I know it’s hard for you to get away, and I’m so delighted
that you could join us. Let’s start with the newest child in your
life, your new venture, Scriball. Tell me more about it.

John Volturo: As you were saying, the whole idea behind Scriball is
really about communities. I started thinking about communities a lot
when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease because there wasn’t a lot of
information out there back in 2009. Really, my community was you, was
Jackie Keller. Jackie, I was lucky enough to have feed me and she
delivered my meals and experimented on me and helped me figure out
what worked and what didn’t work. I slowly started realizing that
food actually was changing the way I felt. Everything from headaches
to the rashes that Jackie mentioned earlier, to just no feeling
bloated all the time. Suddenly, I felt like a different person.

I started seeking out communities, and I realized that across the
country there were these micro-communities formed around certain
areas. Here on the west coast we were lucky; some places in Florida.
When I started talking to these people, I realized that a movement was
starting. To Jackie’s point earlier, it really wasn’t about a fad,
per se, but there were a lot of people who were actually suffering
illnesses. I was lucky enough to find out early for me. Out of that
whole idea of community grew this idea that communities are really
starting to fragment off Facebook and Twitter. People are starting to
have conversations, but the problem with Facebook and Twitter that I
saw as somebody who was actually running a social commerce company was
that didn’t let people actually have a narrative. The narrative kind
of escaped our daily life. For me that was really exciting because as
a storyteller at heart, because I worked in television for eight years
building out infomercials, 30-minute commercials, the story was the

You told the story about somebody, a passionate developer like Jackie
Keller, and you told this story about how they became who they were,
and you convinced the person to buy a product through the passion and
the fact that this is authenticity. All those communities started to
disappear, and the whole narrative started to disappear. I got this
idea, shouldn’t there be a narrative in the story online. I decided
to leave my company that I was at, BeachMint, and start Scriball. The
idea behind Scriball is that it enables all of these small
communities, or large communities, or brands, to have a conversation
with each other, but collaboratively so people can build stories
together. In the case of what you’re doing with your work, Jackie,
the way I see the stories, all these people that you help have stories
to tell. Not just testimonials, but stories that they want to tell
about the way you’ve impacted their life. The other part of the whole
community is that it’s fun, it’s gaming. If you want to have recipe
competitions, like who’s made the best gluten-free recipe, or which
ingredient causes this bread to rise better. I’ve actually done that
and seen the power of the communities when they’re together; they just
make it a much more rich experience. That’s what Scriball’s all

Jackie Keller: I know you mentioned community and you mentioned Adam and
the other new children in your life. Your twin daughters, and now
they’re about three years old. What’s it like to become an instant
parent, John?

John Volturo: It was exhausting.

Jackie Keller: You didn’t have to breastfeed.

John Volturo: No, I didn’t have to breastfeed, thankfully, and I didn’t
have to carry them, thankfully. We were really lucky to have a
surrogate here in Los Angeles, so we got the whole experience from the
beginning to end. All of the sudden you go from being a married
couple to having two kids in your house within three days of them
being born. Your life gets turned upside-down, and you realize how
small the world is. You realize that community, again, going back to
that, is so important.

In Los Angeles we’re really lucky there are organizations like Parents
of Multiples, and we’ve joined a lot of organizations just to get
close to communities because you go through a major life change. On
top of it, being a Celiac, I don’t like to label things of course, but
being a Celiac I started thinking about the impact that the food that
my kids were eating and what types of formula. We did have our
surrogate actually breastfeed, not breastfeed but pumping milk. She
started eating food with gluten in it, and one of my daughters became
ill almost immediately. It was really interesting because I was
actually introducing this to my doctor. When we brought it to the
doctor she was surprised that it happened so early, but we pulled back
all of the gluten. It was very hard to do that with someone that was
doing us a big favor by pumping milk, but only one of our daughter’s
ended up with breast milk; the other one ended up on formula because
of the gluten intolerance.

Jackie Keller: She’s nearly three now, two-and-a-half, right?

John Volturo: They’re both two-and-a-half.

Jackie Keller: Does she have Celiac Disease? Can you tell at this point?

John Volturo: We can’t tell. It’s interesting that you ask because when
she does have a piece of bread or a cracker, I can tell her stomach
gets a little distended. That was the way I felt initially when I
started to discover that I might have Celiac Disease. I actually
didn’t even know Celiac Disease existed until I was diagnosed with it.
I think the things that she feels, I can tell physically are similar
to what I went through. She gets a bloated looking stomach and then
she’ll cry in the middle of the night. I used to wake up in the
middle of the night. Her form of expression is crying; mine was ouch,
my stomach is hurting, why is that happening.

Jackie Keller: Come on, I know you cried.

John Volturo: I cried, I cried. I cried at work because I was tired. I
think she may have an insensitivity. I hope she doesn’t have the full-
blown Celiac disease. We haven’t had her tested. We feel like it’s a
little bit too early. We just want to try to see if we can maybe diet

Jackie Keller: Now, because you have this relatively recent diagnosis,
how big of a challenge has it been for you to convert your whole way
of eating? I know you’re a pasta guy, you come from a good Italian,
pasta thing. That’s just one of the examples I know that you’ve had
to eliminate from your diet.

John Volturo: I’m glad to asked about that, because I will tell you,
back in 2009 when I was first diagnosed the biggest problem I had was
figuring out what to eat. Luckily, like I said, we were working
together, but I love to go out to dinner; it was part of my job as a
matter of fact. Talking to talent, going to speak, having dinners,
and cocktail parties, all of the sudden you start realizing that
gluten is everywhere. Wheat is in soy. Wheat is everywhere you can
possibly imagine, even in oatmeal. There’s certain oatmeal’s that you
can’t even have because it’s grown on the same fields that… It
became a really difficult thing for me to do. For the first month I
lost a lot of weight because I was just afraid to eat. Right after
that I started thinking about all of the things that I wanted, and we
started experimenting at home. Adam was a baker, so in addition to
all of the cookies and desserts that you were making for us, he
started baking bread. All of the sudden I gained weight, and I became
more heavy than I ever was before because I started thinking about the
things I was not able to have, and I started eating them. You get to
that balance, where all of the sudden you figure it out. Fast forward
to today where it’s 2014 and everybody seems to have a gluten-free
recipe, which is great. Even most recently, now I can go to
supermarkets that are on every corner and buy gluten-free pasta if I
want to eat it.

Jackie Keller: How can people who face similar challenges use Scriball to
get more information about not only Celiac but I know you’re also
dairy-free if I remember correctly.

John Volturo: I’m a little difficult.

Jackie Keller: You’re a little difficult. I would guess that your
community helps with that.

John Volturo: We haven’t actually set up a Celiac Scriball, but we
should. I was actually thinking what I wanted to do for you was set
up a community for you for all of your folks, because I think you’re
able to reach a group of folks who have been transformed by all of the
different recipes you’ve created for them. I think you’re right, we
should set up a Scriball community for Celiac Disease, because people
are constantly trying to figure out ways to improve upon what they
eat. What I’ve discovered is that recipe searching is the most
important thing. When I’m at home on a Sunday, and I want to cook a
big Italian dinner for my family because I’m Italian and I grew up
that way in New York City, it’s really hard for me to go online and
find a really great recipe. If there was a community of people
talking about the recipes that work for them, that would be great, and
that’s what Scriball is really about, that micro-community of people
figuring out what’s best and working together to get things done.

Jackie Keller: Let’s do that together.

John Volturo: I would love to do that together.

Jackie Keller: Should we start with a recipe right now?

John Volturo: Yeah, let’s do it.

Jackie Keller: Alright, let’s cook. All right, John, time to cook. I
thought today we would make something that is gluten-free, dairy free,
and for you soy free, and still nutritious, delicious, doable, nothing
fancy, nothing foreign or weird, nothing exotic, and just show people
how easy it is to put together something without a whole lot of effort
that meets all of those criteria, and is nutritious as well. We’re
going to make a quinoa-based dish. As you know, quinoa is a gluten-
free grain, and it’s loaded with protein so this will take care of the
fact… This is actually a vegan protein dish. A little bit of extra-
virgin olive oil, and of course some onions and bell peppers, which I
know you like.

John Volturo: Already smells delicious.

Jackie Keller: Maybe you can give that a stir while I get the rest of it
going. We’re just going to allow, maybe, 30 seconds for this to take
on some color and flavor. I cheated a little bit, because…

John Volturo: No cheating.

Jackie Keller: I cheat all the time. A little bit of collard greens. I
pre-blanched them because collard greens do take a couple of minutes
to cook, and I knew we would be a little short on time. You’re going
to want to spread those out. If you’re starting with raw collard
greens in the recipe, you’re going to want to either blanch them or
allow for enough time for the collards to cook. Unlike spinach or
chard, which you could use in this recipe, collards are a little
stiffer. The good thing about collards is they are so, so high in
Vitamin K and in fiber.

John Volturo: I love collards. I do love them.

Jackie Keller: It’s not a common vegetable for some of us. I didn’t grow
up with collard greens. I didn’t know anything about them.

John Volturo: We started to grow them in our backyard.

Jackie Keller: How nice.

John Volturo: Yeah, we do.

Jackie Keller: We have a farm now. NutriFit has a farm and we are going

John Volturo: Farm-to-table.

Jackie Keller: Literally, in our case it’s literal. For our clients,
they’re getting things that we grow on the farm and bring in and put
in their plates. Collards are one of the easiest things to grow,
which is really nice. I’m going to add a little bit of vegetarian
vegetable broth. Here would be an instance where we would need to
look and see, does this have gluten. I don’t have my glasses on.

John Volturo: I don’t have mine on either, but I can tell that this is
gluten-free because it doesn’t have any soy in it, and it does not
have anything related to wheat or modified starches. That tells me
right away that it’s probably gluten-free, even though it doesn’t…
It actually says it on the front.

Jackie Keller: Shows you what you can see when you can read, but in other
times or with other products you may not be able to see that it’s
gluten-free on the front.

John Volturo: A lot of products still don’t have it on there.

Jackie Keller: Right, because it’s not necessarily what people are
looking for. Although, I think we are going to see more and more
things labeled gluten-free that never have gluten to begin with, but
this is a product like a broth, sauce, or something pre-made like this
where you would have to read the label carefully.

John Volturo: You really do have to be careful because brown gravies,
like you were saying before, have a lot of gluten in them.

Jackie Keller: We’ve got some vegetable broth in there. Now I’m going to
add some black lentils to this. If you didn’t have these black
lentils, which aren’t that exotic or hard to find, you could use
regular lentils. I kind of like something a little different.
They’re smaller; they have a little better texture for this dish
because they’re not going to get really mushy on me. Of course, by
adding in the lentils, we’re adding in fiber, folate, and a lot of

John Volturo: A nice crunch too.

Jackie Keller: Yeah, they’re good. I’ll add in some of our salt and
sugar-free lemon-garden blend because I know what’s in it. Again,
another circumstance where it could be a filler or something added in
it that could create a reaction.

John Volturo: If you haven’t tried Jackie’s spices, they’re amazing.

Jackie Keller: That’s sweet of you, thank you. You just earned yourself
a bottle to take home.

John Volturo: That’s why I said it.

Jackie Keller: Give that a stir here while we get the quinoa in there.
This is red quinoa. You don’t have to have red quinoa; you don’t have
to have black quinoa; you don’t have to have tri-colored quinoa; you
can have just plain old quinoa. This is organic, and I like this
product because, again, I want something that looks a little unique.
I want something that contrasts with the dish and really creates
something interesting. We’re going to add in this pre-cooked quinoa.
You know you have to rinse quinoa before you cook it because it has
that bitter outer coating. When you just rinse it in a colander that
outer coating is rinsed off, then you just put in in a pot with some
water, bring it up to a boil. Of course, the recipe for this dish is
on It’s also on my health blog, so you don’t have to
worry about writing it down.

John Volturo: It smells delicious.

Jackie Keller: We’re going to top it off with a little bit of meyer lemon
zest and meyer lemon juice. This is another thing we’re trying to
grow up on our farm, meyer lemons. We have a regular lemon tree,
which is prolific. The meyer lemons are harder to grow and a little
bit more delicate, but they have a much sweeter flavor, so we’re
experimenting. We’re not farmers by trade.

John Volturo: It’s not Green Acres.

Jackie Keller: It’s not Green Acres, no, it’s not Green Acres. Well,
part of the acres are green, thank God. If we could just get more
rain we’d be in good shape. I love the smell of lemon zest.

John Volturo: I can smell it from here; it smells great.

Jackie Keller: Then we’ll take some of the juice out as well. You just
keep stirring there. Pretty soon we will have our dish. Can you hand
me one of those forks. I’m going to spear this guy and take the juice
out just like that. Who needs a fancy juicer when you have a good old-
fashioned fork? Maybe a little bit more. I think there’s a seed or
two in there so I have to be a little bit careful. We’re just about
done. It’s really that simple.

John Volturo: This was fast, yeah.

Jackie Keller: Of course, I pre-cooked a couple of things, but nothing
took more than 15 minutes to pre-cook.

John Volturo: You could do while you do other things as well.

Jackie Keller: A nice salad with this, or something like that would be
done for the day. You’ve got protein, fiber, fat, healthy vitamins,
minerals, everything you need.

John Volturo: I think I’m going to go home and make this for dinner
tonight. This smells delicious. You might have to give this to me.

Jackie Keller: You might have to taste it first, what do you think, ready
to do that? Let’s do this. Let’s turn it down because it’s pretty
hot. Why don’t you dish yourself up a little bit, and I’m going to
have you take a taste. I think you have a fork right there. Let me
know what you think. Hot, I know. Is it good?

John Volturo: As good as I thought it would be. I did get that one

Jackie Keller: That tiny seed found you.

John Volturo: It’s very good.

Jackie Keller: This is a base. Obviously, you could modify it. If you
didn’t have collards you could use something else; make it your own,
but I’m glad we came up with something. If you did want to make this,
and it wasn’t for John, and you wanted to add some soy nuts to it, you
could for a little additional crunch, some roasted soy nuts on the
top. It’s good without it as well.

John Volturo: Or you could put pine nuts, if you’re me.

Jackie Keller: There you go, and pine nuts would be a lovely addition to
that. John, thank you so much for joining me today.

John Volturo: Glad to me here. I’ll have to give you a hug. I love
this woman.

Jackie Keller: I know that everybody wants to stay connected to you
personally, and they also will be interested in Scriball, so please
tell our audience how they can find you.

John Volturo: You can find me at, thank you.

Jackie Keller: We’ll stay connected.

John Volturo: Yes.

Jackie Keller: We’ll stay in touch.

John Volturo: I’d love to do that.

Jackie Keller: We’ll do this again.

John Volturo: Yes, let’s do it again.

Jackie Keller: Thank you so much. Think for a minute about the most
important relationships in your life. What are the characteristics of
the people to whom you feel closest? Happy couples describe their
partners as interested and responsive. Besides existing
relationships, curious people act in certain ways with strangers that
allow relationships to develop more easily. Research shows that
curious people ask questions and take an interest in learning about
partners and intentionally try to keep interactions interesting and

Here are a couple of things we now know about social relationships.
In a recent blog in Scientific American magazine, Ingrid Wickelgren
writes, “People who are part of a group are also far better equipped
to conquer an internal foe, the threat of bad health. In one of the
recent studies, the health benefits of social relationships published
earlier this year, researchers provided evidence that social ties and
increased contact with family and friends are also associated with the
lower risk in death in young women with breast cancer. Another study
presented a similar conclusion with respect to surviving heart
surgery. What’s more, a 2010 meta-analysis of 148 other studies
showed that social connection doesn’t just help us survive health
problems, but lack of it causes them.”

She goes on, “Many languages have expressions such as hurt feelings
that compare the pain of social rejection to the pain of physical
injury. We now know that those are more than just metaphors. There
are two components to physical pain, an unpleasant emotional feeling
and a feeling of sensory distress. They’re both associated with
different structures in the brain, and social pain is also associated
with a particular brain structure. This connection between physical
and social pain reflects the tie between social connection and the
psychological processes of the body.” The health message is clear.
Reach out socially, you’ll engage your curious self, you’ll minimize
the pain of social isolation, and live more fully.

As John Lennon wrote so poetically, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but
I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world
will live as one.” That’s our show today. I hope you’ll join me next
week for another episode of Food Exposed, where we’ll take a close
look at what’s on your plate. For more Food Exposed, check me out on, and until next week, remember, make food your best
friend and exercise your companion for life.